Partners for sustainability: supporting car-free living

Living car-free in a car-focused world is a big challenge, but just a few thoughtful tweaks can streamline car-free living for tenants. What to do as a landlord, and what to look for (and ask for) as a tenant.


Four car spaces, or 60 bike and scooter spaces?

We're so used to making space for cars in this country, it can be hard to shift our thinking to accommodate the many US residents (about 10% overall, up to 30% in urban areas) who choose not to - or can't afford to - own a car. But small changes in rental properties can make a big difference.


First and foremost, it's important to make sure it's easy for car-free residents to get where they need to go. Look up how your property compares using Walk Score, Bike Score, and Transit Score, and start with your strengths: if you've already got a strong Bike Score, focus on building bike-friendliness. If transit access is your strength, make it as easy as possible for residents to use it. If your location doesn't have access (yet!) to safe bike infrastructure, walkable streets and sidewalks, and/or public transit, consider ways your community might improve and share your ideas with your city.


For all car-free residents:

  • Provide ample temporary package storage. If you're living without a car, online shopping can be a great way to get the stuff you need - you just need a place to put it when it arrives.

  • Include tips, links, and other tidbits in newsletters, social media posts, and other communications about living car-free, biking and walking safely, or how drivers can support car-free residents (e.g. by offering to carpool and driving safely around people biking or walking)

  • Talk up your dedication to car-free living! This can be a selling point for residents, particularly near college campuses or downtowns where traffic is terrible and parking is at a premium.

  • Maintain a map of biking-, walking-, and transit-appropriate routes from your location to common destinations. Your city's bike and pedestrian program may be able to help put this together, or your car-free residents may be able to provide input on the safest route options.

  • Sponsor, share information about, or host events that support a car-free lifestyle, like Bike to Work Day, open streets events, local government planning sessions for nearby transportation improvements, or meetings of local transportation advocacy organizations.

  • Provide a parking credit in recognition that car-free residents are reducing the demand on your parking spaces. Alternatively, recognize parking as an "extra" and enable residents to rent parking spots rather than defaulting to a free parking space for everyone.

  • Consider providing discounts or other incentives for residents who offer to carpool or otherwise support car-free residents.

  • Dedicate space to a public bike share or car share service if available in your area, or consider making a bike or two available for check out to residents.

  • Provide (or partner with other nearby properties to provide) a resident shuttle service.


Building walkability:

  • Prioritize clearing sidewalks and footpaths of debris and snow, and ensure that walking paths are not blocked by vehicles or other obstacles.

  • Connect sidewalks within the property to create a safe network for walking.

  • Pave or clear shortcuts, or provide easements to improve the public sidewalk or trail network and/or connections to the public network.


Building bike friendliness:

  • Prioritize clearing onsite bike paths and lanes of debris and snow. Add signage letting drivers know not to block the lanes.

  • Set up a bike maintenance area with a bike stand, bike wash station, air pump, and/or tools. At the very least, keep an air pump easily accessible.

  • Provide receptacles near bike parking areas to enable charging for electric bikes.

  • Establish an on-street bike corral for extra bike parking - perhaps by repurposing a parking space near your entrance.

  • Provide easy-access, secure, visible, and ideally covered bike parking.

  • Improve connectivity to bike infrastructure by providing easements, clearing, or paving shortcuts from your property to bike paths or trail systems.

  • Apply to become an official "Bike-friendly Business" via the League of American Bicyclists.


Building transit friendliness:

  • Provide easy access to schedules and bus tracking, if available.

  • Upgrade nearby or onsite transit stops to provide shade and shelter for transit riders while they wait. Alternatively, consider lobbying the local transit authority for an upgraded shelter, or sponsoring the upgrades on behalf of your residents.

  • If transit isn't easily accessible from your location, explore options with your local transit agency, and indicate your interest in better routes and/or stops nearby.



Ultimately, reach out to your tenants and ask them what they most need, and consider encouraging your tenants with cars to consider non-motorized transportation too. It's good for health, for transportation infrastructure (including all that space we allocate to parking), and for the environment too.


Are there other steps you've taken on your property, or seen at the property where you live, that you'd like to add to this list? Reach out to us at info@rentlab.org.




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